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THE LONGEST YARD

Filming The Football Scenes
To ensure the football scenes looked as authentic as possible, the production called upon the talents of a former NFL quarterback and a well-known football coordinator to school the actors in the finer points of the sport. 

As the sports coordinator, Mark Ellis ("Coach Carter,” "Friday Night Lights,” "Any Given Sunday”) was responsible for ensuring that the actors were prepared to film the football scenes in a safe but ultimately realistic way.

"I made sure that the football is authentic, safe, and works to help tell the story,” he notes. "After recruiting the players, the first thing we did was evaluate these guys and find out what their strengths and weaknesses were. We made sure that we took advantage of those strengths.”

The director notes that Sandler came to the project with skills. "Adam is a really good athlete,” says Segal. "He was quarterback of his Pop Warner team. These days, he's on the basketball court every day, sweating it out. But he hadn't thrown the football in a long time, so Salisbury was there to share his fourteen-year NFL experience with Adam and get him in football shape. Before long, Adam was out there throwing tight spirals, working on the formations, the calls – everything.”

Segal notes that throwing ability is only part of portraying a good quarterback. "It's also how you carry yourself; the swagger, how much confidence you have coming to the line, how you look in command when you're serving, surveying the defense, giving the audibles. Adam has a lot of that, and as practices went on, we really saw how he was leading the team.”

To instill this confidence, Ellis and his team helped Sandler master the vocal inflection on the line of scrimmage and the leadership in the huddle that a former NFL player would bring to the Mean Machine.

Coach Ellis was impressed with the star's commitment and athletic ability. "We did a shot with Adam where he threw a football; it leaves his hands and the camera tracks along for 45 yards as the ball sails right into Michael Irvin's hands – there's no cut,” says Ellis. "I've been doing this for 13 years and I've never been able to get that shot the way we have with Adam.”

Coach Ellis also took 22 300-pound guys and put them through two football training camps, first in L.A. and then again in Santa Fe, New Mexico. His recruits came from a number of different backgrounds: former NFL players, AFL players, wrestlers, kickboxers, actors, and even a musician. 

It was a real training camp regimen. "A lot of the guys would work out with weights in the mornings; we'd bring them back for a second afternoon practice,” says Ellis. "Training camp is as grueling mentally as it is physically. But that was all part of what was building camaraderie, getting to know each other and learning the plays.”

Although there were physical demands on the players, they also needed to remember they were making a film. To that end, the football sequences needed to be structured into a coordinated effort – a staged reality. "You can make an analogy between dance choreography and football,” observes Ellis. "I have 22 guys that are involved in a very violent dance. They'd better know what they're gonna do, or somebody has a chance of getting hurt.”

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